Biden could solve this crisis not with appeasement, but with a fair exchange

BRATTLEBORO — On the March 2 broadcast of NPR's All Things Considered, I heard Linda Thomas-Greenfield, our ambassador to the United Nations (who, by the way, was described as wearing the colors of the Ukrainian flag) say about some anti-Russian resolution she and others were proposing as being part of “a battle for the soul of the world.”

Give me a break, please!

When the U.N., as it has many times, nearly unanimously passed resolutions condemning, say, U.S. aggression in Iraq or Israel in the occupied territories, with only the United States (and Israel) voting “No,” I never heard anyone who proposed those resolutions braying about how they were “for the soul of the world.”

Only Americans, with “God-on-our-side” zealotry, indulge in this kind of rhetorical, hypocritical bombast.

You know, I'm old enough to have lived through Vietnam, Cuba, Grenada, Nicaragua, Iran, Iraq, and Afghanistan - just for starters - and have read about the millions of deaths just since World War II caused by the U.S. military, its proxies, and sanctions in its interventions around the world.

And I get just a little bit sick and tired, not to mention outraged, at our seemingly endless self-righteousness when it comes to being the good guys on the block and in foreign affairs.

One thing, at this point, to me seems certain: we will never, ever learn or change.

Like guns and gun violence (including the scores or hundreds of our nuclear missiles on or near Russia's border), it's in our DNA. Juvenile as it may be, it's who we are as a country. But I think it sucks.

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The war in Ukraine is an unspeakably horrific tragedy that may well become protracted and get much, much worse because of the terror of massive, unleashed Russian bombing and the resulting civilian casualties.

Yet on this same night, I once again heard a quote from U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken that NATO and the U.S. offered Putin “many diplomatic off-ramps” in the lead up to the invasion.

History will be the judge, but I, for one, don't believe so.

I think the West could have given Putin more that would not - I repeat, not - have been appeasement but something resembling more, basic fairness.

The way, for example, President John F. Kennedy offered (in a deal that remained secret for more than 25 years) to remove nuclear missiles from Turkey in exchange for Russia removing its missiles from Cuba.

Not appeasement, but a fair exchange.

* * *

But not President Joe Biden, who, strange as it will seem to most, is starting to remind me of President Lyndon Johnson in the Vietnam era.

Again, history will judge, but from my severely limited knowledge of high-level diplomacy, Biden hasn't really given much of anything to address Putin's security concerns, and there are others - though mostly outside the “manufactured consent” of American media - who agree with me.

So, if and when thousands or tens of thousands more Ukrainians suffer horrific deaths and injuries in the terror yet to come as the war drags on, I honestly feel that by displaying the characteristic, tough, God-on-our-side we-don't-back-down American self-righteousness, Biden will bear some real responsibility for those deaths because he could have prevented them.

I say, like the Pete Seeger song, it's still not too late! It's too late to stop the heating of the Earth, the melting of the ice caps and the tundra, and the hell that is to come, but it's not too late to halt this war in Ukraine. Biden could still stop it now - if he wanted to - before the worst happens.

It would take amazing, outside-the-box (even suicidal) political courage to honestly negotiate with Putin a fair swap like Kennedy did with USSR Premier Nikita Khrushchev during the Cuban Missile Crisis. But it could be done, right?

Meanwhile, as the bombs fall, as bodies are crushed and blown apart, and as the screams grow louder and more sustained, would someone please suggest to me a better alternative?

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